Residing in the Kensington section of Philadelphia in his younger years, Ken Paul knew he someday wanted to leave his childhood home for greener pastures – in the literal sense of the word. He and his family, Paul said, used to talk about relocating to a more suburban setting.
Naturally, he eventually hopped neighborhoods and settled in Port Richmond.
“We heard they had grass over there,” he said of his current place of residence.
Paul is a Philly kind of guy and he said he likes newly elected Democratic mayoral nominee and South Philadelphia native Jim Kenney for that same reason.
“[Kenney] is a man of the neighborhoods,” said Paul, who openly stated he had voted for Kenney in Tuesday’s Democratic Primary. “He’s from South Philly but he makes himself present. He comes to the different events and not just here – Northeast, Southwest Philly, Northwest – he’s everywhere. He gets himself out there. He knows the people.
“You can take a position, win and never be seen. He’s not like that. He’s always been accessible even when he was a council person and everything else. He’s someone you can approach and you can talk to. If you have a question at all, he’ll be more than glad to stop and talk with you.”
Kenney’s name is a common sight around Port Richmond these days.
Signs bearing the name of the former City Council member sit perched against windows of many neighborhood homes. Yards, street poles, parks and other city spots advertise Kenney’s candidacy. Several neighborhood residents openly endorsed him on Tuesday.
“He’s for the people,” Paul said. “He’s a working man and everything else. He’s got a great vision. He was City Council. He knows how things work. He’s had all that time in there, and now he’s looking to work. You have [City Council President Darrell Clarke] … they’ll work hand-in-hand with each other.”
“Whatever Kenney wants, I want,” added Port Richmond resident Elaine Pierce, who volunteered at the polling place at Frank Glavin Memorial Playground on East Westmoreland Street. “He’s just friendly. He’s outgoing. He seems like he really wants to help the neighborhoods.”
Kenney was elected in 1991 as a Democratic City Councilman at-large and served on the council until he stepped down from his position in early February in light of his forthcoming move to run for mayor, which he announced on Feb. 6.
Some of his priorities while in office, according to his campaign website, would be to push for early-childhood education funding, particularly with Pre-K programs, and to increase wages for the city’s working class.
While Mayor Michael Nutter is also a former City Councilman, Port Richmond resident and voter Charlie McLaughlin said he thinks Kenney and the council would make for an improved relationship at City Hall.
“Even though he was a councilman, [Nutter and City Council] have both been antagonistic with each other,” McLaughlin said. “For some reason they just never got along. They didn’t work well together. I think Kenney and council will work well together. Maybe they’ll get more done?”
Along with Kenney, the Democratic Primary mayoral ballot consisted of State Senator Anthony Williams, Milton Street (brother of former Mayor John Street), former Philadelphia judge and Temple University Board of Trustee member Nelson Diaz, former mayoral press secretary Doug Oliver and former Philadelphia District Attorney Lynne Abraham. Kenney will run against lone Republican candidate Melissa Bailey for the mayoral seat in November general election.
Port Richmond resident and Republican Jim Zebrowski helped out at the polling place at the Police Athletic League of Philadelphia, located at East Clearfield and Belgrade streets, for the City Council Republican Primary. When asked about the six Democratic candidates, he said he’s simply hoping for a different type of change, one that hasn’t happened since the city’s last Republican mayor, Bernard Samuel, left office in 1952.
“The Democrats have been controlling this city for over 70 years,” Zebrowski said. “It’s not getting any better. I know a lot of people – when they get the chance, they’re moving out. In a couple years, I’ll be moving. My wife’s still working. They [politicians] get in office, they stay in there so long, they get complacent [and] they don’t care. They don’t do anything. They just collect a salary every day. … If Kenney wins [Tuesday], he’ll be your next mayor.”
– Text and images by Andrew Parent and Paul Imburgia.